The experts stressed the need of taking immediate actions to protect food system to produce enough food in quantity and quality. The COVID pandemic has already posed a serious threat to our food system; we need to develop resilient and holistic food system to fight hunger, the panelists urged, while addressing the COMSTECH virtual seminar on World Food Day on the theme of “Grow, nourish and sustain together” organized in collaboration with UPSIGN and Pakistan Academy of Sciences.
They warned that the food system is facing tremendous pressure from climate change causing the depleting natural resources, soil degradation, water shortage and increasing threat from invasive species of pests and diseases.
It was noted that the new varieties have low update of trace elements and essential minerals that needs to be addressed.
Prof Ratan Lal, The World Food Prize Winner 2020, was the chief guest speaker. A panel of distinguished scholars and policy makers who participated in this seminar include Dr Tina Barsby OBE, Director and Chief Executive Officer, National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), UK, Dr Shahid Mansoor, National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE), Prof Iqra Ahmed Khan, former VC of University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.
The Hon. Ms. Shandana Gulzar Khan, Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) network and chair of Agri products committee in National Assembly of Pakistan informed that the government of Pakistan is keen to develop a long-term strategy to protect its natural resources, especially soil and water for the coming generations in her closing remarks.
Prof. Lal stressed the need of teaching our young generation to protect our soil’s health, which is living and improve organic contents, through restoration of soil health, we can improve the human health.
Resilient systems are those that can bounce back, we need to encourage urban agriculture. Good food is a good medicine, improving nutritional value. He quoted verses from the Holy Quran meaning “Eat lawful and what is good on earth”.
Dr Tina Barsby said, “If the world is to grow enough food for the projected global population in 2050, agricultural productivity will have to rise by at least 60%, and may need to grow more than double. Maize, Rice, Wheat and Soybean are only increasing by about 0.9% to 1.6% a year.
We need to increase it to 2.4% per year to double yield by 2050”.
Dr. Shahid Mansoor emphasized the need of adopting the speed breeding technologies, which is a combination of red and blue lights to reduce generation time (5-6 generations in a year instead of one or two), reduce breeding time 2-3 years, adopting genomics/genomic selection and use of genetic markers to select desirable traits (such as yield, disease resistance, nutritional value, quality) both for crops and livestock.
Prof Iqrar Khan alluded the need of soil stewardship schemes especially inclusion of legumes in the cropping system. Dr Khalid Mahmood thanked the speakers on behalf of UPSIGN, COMSTECH and Pakistan Academy of Sciences.